News and information to help journalists serve the public and stay safe.
July 23, 2020
Journalists prize investigative work for the impact it has: unearthing risk and damage, holding the powerful to account, changing laws and changing lives. But investigative journalism jobs have long been the province of veteran reporters, usually white and male. As newsrooms commit to diversifying their teams, investigative journalists can better reflect underserved communities that have traditionally been harmed by systemic problems yet to be exposed. 

Join moderator  Manny Garcia , senior editor for the ProPublica-Texas Tribune Investigative Initiative; Maria Perez , investigative reporter at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; and Cheryl W. Thompson , investigative correspondent for NPR and president of Investigative Reporters and Editors, for this program from the  News Leaders Association  and Journalism Institute.

News consumption spiked as the pandemic hit the United States, but audiences have since fluctuated, their attention span tested by the incessant virus and the eruption of protests following the killing of George Floyd.

Amid all that, news organizations have worked to expand and retain their readers, viewers and website visitors. 

“A big challenge is convincing diverse communities that our intentions are good and that we want to cover them fairly,” Adrian Ruhi , the Audience Growth & Loyalty editor at The Miami Herald , wrote in an email. “If one’s community is only covered when there is crime, one has every reason to be skeptical of a news outlet’s intentions. And the best way to do this is to listen to our readers and acknowledge our failings.”

We emailed this week with Ruhi (pictured), who also oversees growth efforts at El Nuevo Herald and The Bradenton Herald , to find out how those McClatchy news organizations worked to increase engagement with their distinct audiences and whether the appetite for news has waned.

Since the start of the year, how have you been building your audience and have you been able to maintain it?

Ruhi : Before the pandemic, we were experimenting with making certain beats and types of stories available only for subscribers. Stories and beats that were frequently on the path to conversion (meaning they were one of the last five stories someone read before they subscribed) and/or were well-read among existing subscribers were usually strong options for subscriber-only content.

When the novel coronavirus hit Florida, our priorities (and our readers’) changed. For several months, high reader interest in COVID-19 news, paired with us making a large chunk of stories paywall-exempt, equalled a lot of top-of-funnel traffic from readers who didn't typically come to our site.The Miami Herald quickly launched a pop-up daily coronavirus newsletter in early March to try to capture some of these new readers and build habits with them. Since its launch, that newsletter has had the highest open rate and click-through rate of all Miami Herald newsletters in that time frame.

Have you detected any fatigue by readers for coronavirus stories, or is there still interest?

Ruhi : Once the curve was initially flattened in Florida by late May, interest in coronavirus stories waned. But as cases, positivity rates and deaths started increasing in late June, reader interest returned.

Which Covid stories, if any, have particularly resonated with readers (comments, reaction, shared)? Does that vary according to McClatchy property?

Ruhi : Our daily live blogs and our stories about the daily case numbers, which are free to all readers as a public service, are still widely read. 

Several types of stories have resonated with readers: investigative coverage of the cruise industry’s response to coronavirus , the interactive COVID-19 tracker , stories about restaurant and business openings and closings, and ultitility stories, such as where you can get tested.

Some voices rise and echo, and others never penetrate the noise that surrounds us. Having an important platform — like the New York Times or L.A. Times — can amplify perspectives. In this program, L.A. Times editorial page editor  Sewell Chan , Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times reporter  Nikole Hannah-Jones , New York Times Magazine editor-in-chief  Jake Silverstein, and L.A. Times columnist  Erika Smith will describe: 

  • How to make yourself heard 
  • How to work with an editor or writer to hone a point of view 
  • How to pitch (& catch) a column or opinion piece 

Registration is open now  for this program, which will be held on 11:30 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET July 29. 
Bill Plante Chair in Leadership & Media Integrity, Loyola University Chicago
Freedom Forum Fellow in Women’s Leadership

Here’s a real challenge for virtual teams: distance can reduce empathy. It’s harder to see the world through someone else’s eyes when you don’t often see their face.

Here are some truths and tips to reduce conflict and misunderstanding.

  • The more important a message is, the more it benefits from what scholars call the “richest” form of communication — one that lets people see and hear each other, listen for tone, read body language and gestures, provide immediate responses and question what they doubt or don’t understand. Use Zoom or Skype on a regular basis to avoid misunderstandings.

  • Because we need to text and Slack and email, and do it often, make certain your brief messages don’t come across as terse or your delayed response doesn’t seem like a diss. If you write “mhm” in response to a message, and for you it’s, “I agree” — for someone else, it might be “whatever.” Spell out your interest. And make it safe for people to ask “What do you mean?” as an earnest question and be prepared to explain your communication intentions, preferences and quirks.

  • If you weren’t fond of someone before, you’re unlikely to give them the benefit of the doubt now. But give it a try. Promise yourself you’ll first try viewing their words or actions through a neutral to positive lens. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, it’s time to set up a difficult conversation to resolve what’s at the bottom of your anger.

  • Remember that we judge ourselves by our intentions and others by their actions. That leaves lots of room for bad calls. Be explicit about your intentions. “What’s your story status?” may sound like “I don’t trust you.” But “I’m checking on your story status because they’re pushing me for graphics” keeps me from misreading your intent.

  • If you’re ticked off about something — step away from the keyboard. Use a call to work things out rather than escalating things online.

This column was originally published in the March 20 edition of Covering Coronavirus.
Do you qualify as an ally? Join Jill for the next  Freedom Forum Institute Power Shift Project program  on August 20 at 1 p.m. EDT.  Registration is now open .
Feeling a bit of WFH burnout setting in? Tired of going to the same spot in your house every morning and logging in? It might be time to change your point of view.

No, not a change in mindset. Just a change in scenery.

Imagine looking out over a new horizon, or the light hitting your desk at a different angle, or turning your back on the siren call of your television. All that can be reinvigorating and help your productivity.

  • Here are some tips on how to adjust your surroundings — and your mood: 
  • Grab your laptop and work from your balcony or backyard for a few hours, or a day.
  • Follow CDC and local health guidelines and try working at an outdoor cafe with wifi.
  • Too hot or too hot-spot? Get a new perspective by simply placing your laptop on another spot on the dining room table. 
  • Turn your work desk around. Instead of staring at that print all day long, you’ll now be looking out a window or patio door.
  • Change your wall decor
  • Bring a plant into your line of vision, maybe even an indoor blooming plant that you can watch transform from day to day.

Read on for more self-care tips, or share your own .
This newsletter is written & edited by the National Press Club Journalism Institute staff: Beth Francesco, Holly Butcher Grant, Jim Kuhnhenn, and Julie Moos. Send us your questions and suggestions for topics to cover.

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